Study Guide

The Fellowship of the Ring

by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Fellowship of the Ring Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Bilbo Baggins, the most adventurous hobbit of the Shire, plans to celebrate his 111th birthday. His old friend Gandalf the Grey, a wizard with special control over fire, tries to restrain him from using his magic ring to vanish at the end of the party. Gandalf is disturbed, for he suspects the ring of being the One Ring forged by Sauron, the Dark Lord, in the volcanic fires of Mount Doom. This ring gives long life but corrupts its user. Even Bilbo, who gained it without losing pity, begins to show signs of its evil influence. On his departure, however, after his spectacular vanishing, he leaves his property, reluctantly including the ring, to his nephew Frodo. Gandalf warns Frodo of its dangers and advises that he take it from the Shire.

Frodo leaves the Shire, accompanied by his loyal servant Sam Gamgee and two of his cousins, Merry and Pippin. Pursued by fearful Black Riders, they narrowly escape destruction in the Old Forest, and they are rescued by jovial, earthy Tom Bombadil, who proves to be immune to the ring’s power. He sends them on their way refreshed.

At Bree, they meet a mysterious ranger called Strider and find a letter from Gandalf urging them to go to Rivendell with Strider, whose real name is Aragorn. On their fourth night out of Bree, they are attacked by Black Riders. In terror, Frodo puts on the ring and becomes invisible to his friends but visible and vulnerable to the Riders, Sauron’s Ringwraiths, whose leader stabs Frodo with a weapon that breaks off in the wound and melts. Aragorn drives them off with torches, and the company hastens toward Rivendell. Glorfindel, an elf, meets them and puts Frodo on his horse. At the Ford near Rivendell, the Black Riders try to intercept him but are thwarted by a flood.

Frodo recovers consciousness to find Gandalf with him and to learn that Elrond of Rivendell was treating his fearful wound for days. In Rivendell, Frodo finds Bilbo and meets Elrond, his daughter Arwen Evenstar, and others, including Glóin, an elderly dwarf who formerly accompanied Bilbo. Elrond calls a council to discuss the ring. At the council are Elrond’s elven subjects as well as a wood elf named Legolas, Glóin and his son Gimli, Gandalf, the five hobbits, Aragorn, and a noble gray-eyed warrior named Boromir of Gondor. Elrond recounts the history of the Rings of Power, which was made by elvensmiths in the Second Age, and of Sauron’s secret forging of a ring to rule and bind all the rest. In that age, Sauron was overthrown by an alliance of human beings and elves, and Isildur cut off the Dark Lord’s finger and took the ring, but it slipped from his finger and betrayed him to the orcs. Years later, it was found in the river by Deagol, a hobbit whose kinsman Smeagol murdered him for it and fled underground, becoming the repulsive Gollum. Bilbo...

(The entire section is 1149 words.)